Secrets of the pilot’s seat revealed at RAF Cosford open cockpits event

Some of history’s most iconic aircraft have been opened up to the pubic in a rare opportunity to see things from the pilot’s point of view.

Isla Meakin, eight, and Steve Simmonds from Shrewsbury
Isla Meakin, eight, and Steve Simmonds from Shrewsbury

The Royal Air Force Museum Cosford hosted an ‘open cockpits’ event on Saturday and Sunday, with youngsters and aviation enthusiasts given a chance to take a seat inside some of the rarest exhibits – including the hugely recognisable V–Bombers.

The event is a special part of the museum calendar and is limited with only a few hundred tickets available over the two days.

Ethan Rodwell, Jack Rowley, Nick Winsper, Matthew Winsper, and Mike Rowley
Seb Andrews, seven with the English Electric P1A aircraft

Abi Betteridge, the museum’s public events manager, said they had been thrilled with the reaction from the visitors.

She said: “It was really successful.

“We had just over 500 people attend over the two days with a real mix of families and adults who have a particular interest in aviation.”

She added that for many who attended it was the first time they had ever been able to get up close and personal with some of the rare exhibits.

David Rhodes from Rugeley
The Bristol 188 and Volunteer Graham Croft with David Maneru 12 and Florentina Maneru from Swadlincote

She said: “Speaking to them, for the majority it was the first time they had attended the event and particularly the families with young children.”

She added: “There are particular aircraft they would never get the chance to see inside so it is really exciting for them to get the chance to do it.”

Previously the open cockpit sessions have taken place in the evening, with the daytime switch proving a more family-friendly slot for the event.

Ed Perrin shows Jack Rowley inside the Valiant

One of those included in the 13 aircraft opened up for the weekend was the Vickers Valiant B1.


The plane was one third of Britain’s strategic nuclear strike force during the 1950s and 1960s, known as V Force.

The Valiant was the first of Bomber Command’s V class aircraft and established Britain’s air-borne nuclear deterrent force before pioneering operational in-flight refuelling in the Royal Air Force.

Not only was it the first V-Bomber to enter service, it was also the first to drop an operational British nuclear weapon over Christmas Island in 1957.

Rear gunner hatch in the Lincoln

Ms Betteridge said the plane had undoubtedly been a major attraction for the visitors.

She said: “The main highlights were the Valiant, that is not something we open very often at all, and the Harrier GR3, which was very popular as well.”

Another star of the show was the Bristol 188, which is built mainly of stainless steel, and was designed to investigate the effects of heat on aircraft structures at very high speeds.

RAF Cosford expert Keith Miller shows Sukhdeep Bhamera from Great Barr inside the Lincoln which was open to the public

To protect the pilot against heat build-up a special cockpit refrigeration system was installed.

The plane was named the ‘Flaming Pencil’, and only two ever took to the skies with the third being used for ground tests.

Alongside the stars of the show were a host of other classic aircraft including the Short Brothers’ Belfast – a giant of the RAF’s Cold War air fleet – and a Focke Wulf FW 190, one of the most successful combat aircraft of the Second World War and the backbone of the German Luftwaffe’s fighter force.

Others on show featured in the event were the Hunting H126, English Electric P1A, Fairey FD2, Saunders-Roe SR53, Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR3, Kawasaki Ki-100-1b, and the Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer CCII.

The event was aided by a host of volunteers, with more than 80 ensuring it ran smoothly, including Wrekin Cadet squadron.

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